12 10 2011

Anyone who has seen the satirical television  series 2012 must be beginning to wonder whether it is in reality a documentary as the subject of legacy stumbles from farce to fiasco taking in broken promises along the way…..

In this week’s episode we revisit one of the only two legacies actually  promised as part of our bid for the 2012 Olympic Games, that of the stadium  (the other was an increase in participation in sport).

First, a recap. What was promised was a stadium which could be used by  the athletics community after the Games. It was recognised that the Olympic  stadium would need a significant reduction in capacity in order to be suitable  for athletics needs and the plan was to remove the top-tier once the  Paralympics had finished leaving a stadium with a capacity of 25,000. The  stadium staying ‘as is’ was never part of the promised legacy or of the plan.

Then enter West Ham United (supported by Newham Council with Council Tax  payers money) and the plan changed. The legacy for athletics was forgotten  (although obviously it wasn’t sold to the public as such) and the new ‘legacy’  became one of a football club running a multi-event stadium (with athletics  track) to which athletics would be lucky to stage five events a year and gain  little or no grass-roots value from. But, we were told, because the track was  still there it was a legacy for athletics.

It was sold as ‘legacy’ so well that the public loved it. So when  Tottenham Hotspur entered stage left they were quickly painted as the ugly  sister. And yet, what Tottenham proposed was a reduced capacity (as in the  original plan) and a 25,000 capacity home for athletics (as in the original  legacy promise). But as the athletics legacy stadium would be at Crystal Palace  (still in London last time I checked) and the track at Stratford would be  removed, no one liked the idea. Tottenham were intent on seeing fair play  though and court action loomed.

Also heading for the Courts were Barry Hearn and Leyton Orient who  (rightly) pointed to football rules forbidding the re-siting of a larger club (West  Ham) on the door step of a smaller club (Orient). It looked a mess; it was a  mess and it was a mess wholly of the making of those charged with delivering  the supposed ‘legacy’ (forget the ones that were promised, we’ll never see them).

Meanwhile UK Athletics (UKA) were so pleased with the whole set up that  they decided to keep their head office in Birmingham and support the  redevelopment of that city’s Alexandra Stadium where their new offices will be  sited. Publically they always supported the West Ham move because it preserved  the track – although they could never explain what use to the sport was a track  at a 60,000 seat venue which the sport could rarely access and never fill.

Then, all of a sudden they could – well, for one week in 2017 at least.  It was decided to bid for the IAAF World Championships which would require that  big stadium in Stratford. It should be remembered that UKA had previously been  awarded the World Championships for 2005 before embarrassingly having to  withdraw on the back of broken government promises. The sport was given a £40  million ‘legacy’ (they do like that word) payment by the Government (apparently  to stop them complaining) – £40 million which has produced a legacy which can  only be described as invisible at best. Certainly the grass-roots of the sport  have seen no benefit.

The IAAF received guarantees the track would remain and that Britain  would definitely not cause embarrassment by pulling out again. Minister for  Sport, Hugh Robertson, went on television and promised the nation that the track  would remain (probably to yawns all round).

Whoops Minister! It then emerged that both Tottenham (they whose plan  actually delivers the promised legacy) and Orient had rather strong cases and embarrassment  was on the cards should they win the legal battle. So the same people who  promised one legacy (well, two actually) and then changed the plans decided  that they would change the plans again.

The Olympic Stadium was suddenly not going to be sold. It was going to  stay in public hands (you could hear the tax-payers cheer). It was going to  keep the track. It was going to stay at a 60,000 capacity. It was now going to  be leased to a football club (no one doubts a deal has already been done with  West Ham) for a rent equivalent to approximately 40% of annual running costs  (more cheers from the tax-payer).

UKA, who are staying in Birmingham, can now continue their bid for the  2017 Championships. They love it. Although how it services any athletics legacy  beyond that has yet to be made clear. West Ham probably love it too but can’t  do so in public (yet).

Grass roots athletics can’t see any benefit. Tottenham lose out big time  despite being the only party apparently concerned about the nation’s legacy promise  being delivered. And Orient…..well, it’s not clear how this clears up their  issue. If (when) West Ham do move into Stratford, it could well be the death  knell for them….unless they fight it in court?

Oh yes, I forgot to mention; UKA’s only rival for the 2017 IAAF World Championships?  Qatar. The only nation ever to have actually delivered a legacy of increased  participation on the back of a major games (2006 Doha Asian Games). I guess if  we lose we can always accuse them of corruption or has that already been done?

We await the next chapter with bated breath. It would make a great  storyline for a satirical television show only surely, no one would believe it?

As for legacy? As for clear strategy? As for promises?

© Jim Cowan, Cowan  Global Limited, October 2011

Read more blogs by Jim Cowan


Twitter @cowanglobal




One response

6 11 2011

[…] there is the long running farce that is the stadium legacy, one that now looks nothing like that originally promised. If there ever was a strategy for […]

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